Health & wellness

How much exercise do you need to retain muscle?

In the federal government’s exercise recommendations, advice aimed at seniors targets muscle loss and how to prevent it. Younger adults are told to get moderate to vigorous activity most days of the week with at least two days a week of weight training.

Here’s what the guidelines recommend for seniors:


Two or more times per week for 30 minutes per session. This recognizes that those over 65 may get as sweaty and tired from a moderate walk as a 30-year-old gets from a brisk jog. “It’s about relative intensity,’’ said Tufts University nutrition professor Miriam Nelson, who cochaired the panel.

Muscle strengthening


Three times per week for 30 minutes per session. This involves doing 8 to 12 repetitions of targeted exercises to build all the major muscle groups such as biceps, triceps, quadriceps, and back. “One set is effective,’’ state the guidelines, “however, limited evidence suggests that 2 or 3 sets may be more effective.’’

Balance training

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Three times per week. This can help reduce the risk of falling by 30 percent in seniors at risk because of certain health conditions such as severe muscle loss. Tai chi classes, balance gadgets (including wobble boards, balls, and cushions), and yoga poses that require standing on one foot can help build balance.

High-quality sources of protein

The latest research suggests that doubling the recommended daily allowance of protein from about 50 grams a day to about 100 grams a day can improve muscle mass, strength, and function in those over 65. Since the body can convert only so much protein into muscle at one time, it’s best to space protein intake evenly throughout the day, getting about 30 to 35 grams with every meal.

27 grams: 3 ounces top round steak

25 grams: 3 ounces chicken breast


25 grams: 3 ounces canned tuna fish

23 grams: 3 ounces salmon filet

21 grams: 3 ounces ground beef

20 grams: 1/2 cup tofu

18 grams: 3-egg omelet


17 grams: 1/4 cup roasted soy nuts

16 grams: 6-ounce Greek yogurt

14 grams: 1 cup beans or chickpeas

11 grams: 1.5 ounces cheese

11 grams: 8-ounce cup of soy milk

10 grams: 4 ounces cottage cheese

10 grams: Starbucks tall skim latte

8 grams: 8-ounce glass of milk

6 grams: 1/4 cup quinoa